Lack of foresight will cost us again

‘Hmmm I must remember to pack my Lonely Planet Guide’: Nick Compton will have lots of spare time on his hands if KP goes to India

Will Kevin Pietersen play in the test series against India? That’s what everyone’s talking about; that and Australia’s pathetic display in the semi finals of the T20 of course (tee hee).

The logic seems to be “KP’s got a central contract now, so he must be picked – otherwise the ECB are paying him for nothing”. However, it’s not quite that simple. When is it ever?

When the selectors named the squad for India, the board told Geoff Miller that KP wasn’t available; therefore they packed the touring party was batting hopefuls: all three of Eoin Morgan, Nick Compton and Joe Root were selected – not to mention Jonny Bairstow (who probably won’t play either if Prior bats at six and Samit Patel at seven).

The issue therefore becomes this: if KP is recalled for the test series, we’ll have three spare batsmen carrying drinks. I just can’t see this happening. Can you?

The team for the first test is quite likely to be Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Prior, Patel, Broad, Swann, Anderson, Finn. Even if we stick to the six batsman philosophy (with Bairstow coming into the side) that will still leave Morgan and Compton twiddling their thumbs.

This is why, in my opinion, KP probably won’t play in the test matches; even though he has a central contract now and everyone knows we’re likely to be demolished (rather than just soundly beaten) without him. Carrying around three spare batsmen would be a ridiculous situation.

Of course, an alternative would be to ask one (or possibly two) of the reserve batters to sit out the tour. But this would seem incredibly unfair. Furthermore, it would leave the ECB with even more egg on their face (soon they’ll have enough for twenty omelettes). And we all know that the ECB’s main priority in any situation is to look good – whatever the cost to supporters or the team.

So once again it looks like a total lack of foresight is going to cost us dear. At the time the initial squad was picked, did it not occur to the selectors and the board that KP might come back – and that they’d be in a bit of a bind if he did?

Surely it would have been more sensible to pick a smaller squad. Then KP could have been added seamlessly. And if the Pietersen dispute was still ongoing, and the management felt an extra batsman was really necessary (which is debateable anyway) one could have been plucked from the performance squad with ease.

Why is it that English cricket is incapable of looking ahead? Why aren’t all contingencies anticipated? It’s no wonder we’re no longer the number one test team in the world.

James Morgan


  • I thought that one of the batsmen was leaving the Tour for a few days to return home for a birth. So KP could be included for that game.

  • You’re really just finding an excuse to pick a fight here. If they’d picked one batsman too few the papers would have been full of stories of how they were leaving a place open for KP. It seemed far from certain any progress would be made with KP anyway. Journos with an inside track, like Pringle, have been touting the line it wasn’t going to happen. They had to pick the best side available to them at the time.

    As for forward planning. you’re really not considering the issues they’re faced with. It’s not as simple anymore as just picking people for a game. These blokes have other tours and other employment lined up if they don’t tour with England. Playing games with them – you’re coming, you’re not coming, you’re coming again – just because of KP is hardly the mark of a good employer. You’re criticizing the way they treat one player and suggesting a solution which involves treating everybody else badly.

    In any case, it’s all a false premise. The attrition rate on tours of India is atrocious. It’s not uncommon to lose four or five players to Delhi Belly. Nor is it particularly uncommon to take players just to give them the experience of touring with England. Some of these blokes have never played on Indian pitches and the warm-ups should be revealing. There are things to criticize the ECB for in the matter, but this is just contrived nonsense.

    On a different note, whatching WI thump Australia (Doherty bowling last over particularly) was very amusing. :)

  • I feel Morgan is back ahead of Bairstow, and expect him to be selected at 6 in India – particularly given his better batting vs spin.

  • I think that’s harsh. Picking seven batsmen (plus Patel!) would have been fine. As for giving players notice etc, its not an issue if the player is with the performance squad anyway. I think the problem is the selectors didn’t talk to the board when the squad was selected. Did you hear Geoff Miller’s interview? It really came across as though instruction had come down bluntly from on high. I severely doubt there is much communication. When does the left hand know what the right is doing in English cricket?

    • Potentially, the KP negotiations could have dragged on all winter, or longer. A line had to be drawn and day to day England business had to carry on as normal. Whilst one can criticize the ECB for a lot of things, I think they made the right call in that respect.

      Looked at the other way round, had the ECB delayed (or fudged) picking the winter touring teams because they were waiting on KP and things had dragged on longer, it would have been a shambles and they would have been roundly roasted in the press – and in this blog. It would have been a strong bargaining chip for KP, but having the whole team waiting on him would have made him about as popular as rabies and his reintroduction to the team would probably now be impossible.

  • Tristan, I think you’re missing my main point: KP is now available to England, but probably won’t tour because there are already too many batsmen in the squad. Hence, we’ll be in a ridiculous situation i.e. we’re not picking our best player because we don’t want to be unfair to other guys with unproven pedigrees who aren’t going to play anyway. This situation was entirely forseeable – yet ignored.

    My point is simple, they did not need to pick so many batsmen in the original squad. Cook, Root, Trott, Bell, Bairstow, Compton, Morgan and Patel. That’s 8 batsmen. They named 8 because they were worried that the batting looked weak on paper. They were basically trying to throw as much crap against the wall as possible, hoping that some of it would stick (in other words, that one of them might actually do well).

    This was always the wrong strategy because you can only pick 6 in a team at any one time anyway, and there was surely always the chance that KP would come back (indeed, Cook lobbied for KP’s return before the squad was named). What’s more, it is highly likely that Prior will play at 6! That means there’s even less need for an extra batsman in the squad.

    It was simply poor short-term selection. They tried to compensate for the lack of quality batting reserves by picking lots of them. They simply didn’t need to pick both Morgan and Compton. And because they have, it now looks like KP will not play even though he’s available. I bet this possibility never even crossed their mind. They should have made the tough call between Compton and Morgan and moved on. It’s almost like they couldn’t decide, didn’t believe in either, so picked both. And now KP is back we’re in an even bigger hole. Idiocy.

    • I addressed that point already. The KP saga could have gone on for months, and all the signs were that no resolution was forthcoming. They had to pick a team based on who was available.

      They’ve only picked seven batsmen (Patel is picked as a bowler who can bat, not the other way round) and that’s a perfectly normal number for a tour. There’s nothing odd about it, certainly not idiotic.

      If there had been any hint they were holding out for KP it would have made the whole thing a lot worse. It seems as if it was only when they really did move on without him that he realized he wasn’t in charge and would have to give way. Likewise, if the ECB had made plans based around KP returning and then he didn’t, they would have looked like clowns. THAT would have been the idiocy.

      I really don’t see the problem. What’s the source for suggesting KP won’t play because there are too many people on tour? I can’t see any such story in the papers. In fact, they’re suggesting he will play. This just seems like drama out of nowhere.

  • So you really think England will take KP and have morgan, Compton, and in all probability bairstow carryimg drinks all tour? It simply won’t happen. The authorities will realise their folly and exclude KP. It will be the route which salvages as much face as possible. They’ll make up some story that KP isn’t yet ready to be ‘reintegrated’ into the side, or other such mumbo jumbo. The reason we clash over this is that you see Patel as a bowler who bats. He isn’t. Throughout his career he’s very much been a specialist batsman who bowls a bit. In fact, he’s probably not in the top 15 spinners in England.

  • England took the following batsmen on our last overseas tour to Sri Lanka:

    Strauss, Cook, Trott, KP, Bell, Bopara, Patel (that’s just seven … Patel was the one and only batting reserve).

    Considering there was at least the possibility Pietersen would return for this winter’s tour to India, this is the balance we should have chosen. Had they done so, KP could have been added without a problem. However, because they’ve picked an extra batsman – ignoring the fact Prior may bat 6 anyway (so that’s two spare batsmen really) there is no room for KP.

    We’ll just have to see what happens. There is a chance either Morgan / Compton will be stood down, but that would be unfair and make the ECB look a little harsh / silly. The other possibility is that we take everyone, and have Morgan / Compton (and quite possibly Bairstow carrying drinks for a month). It’s a highly awkward situation, which I predict the ECB will solve by simply not selecting Pietersen – even though this is the most damaging root for the team.

  • However you look at him, Patel is only picked because he can bowl. In truth, he’s not good enough at either discipline but he’ll never be picked as a specialist batsman. (which does bring us to the valid point that England hasn’t the courage to play a second specialist spinner, like Monty, so pick a thrid-rate spinning all-rounder)

    Bairstow is the reserve keeper. And Sri Lanka was a two-test series, this is four. Whatsmore, there’s no hint of answering the point that England had to pick the side that was available to them. Rather than making out it was always likely KP would return, it actually seemed very unlikely the matter would be resolved this winter, if at all – it’s still far from clear that he’ll actually start playing again, as he’s being asked to make regular trips back from the Champions Trophy to ‘reintegrate’ with the team. Hardly sounds as if he’s a cast iron certainty of playing. Several press reports have said the truce is so fragile it’s likely to collapse anyway.

    Furthermore, it seems that the thing that finally brought KP to the the table was England making it clear, both in word and deed, that they would move on without him and they weren’t keeping his seat warm. While he was trying to hold them over a barrel, Flower was never going to have him in the side. When they moved on without him he realized that if he was going to play for England again he was going to have to come to heel. The hint that they were expecting him to play in India would have uravelled all that.

    Also, it’s not at all uncommon for players to sit out whole tours. We used to take far more players on tour. When the Aussies came here in ’89 they had nearly twenty players in the party.

    Either way, this seems like a massive fuss about possibly having one extra player on tour. There are a lot of reasons why KP may not play in India, but I doubt that’s one of them.

  • For your point to have validity one has to accept that a. It’s no big deal to have two (in all probability three) reserve batsmen twiddling their thumbs, and b. It was the right thing to do to exclude any possibility that Pietersen would come back. I disagree with both points. You don’t want to pay to carry around a spare part player (the ECB couldn’t afford to pay 3 grand for Monty to get some warm up cricket in Sri Lanka before the last India tour), and it’s not fair on the player either (he could be getting regular cricket with the performance squad or elsewhere). On the second point, what’s wrong with naming a player on standby, and saying they’ll travel if Pietersen doesn’t? It happens with injured players. Furthermore, naming 7 batsmen would have been fine if prior is likely to bat 6.

    Yes England have to look forward with what they’ve got, but they also have to consider every contingency – especially when it’s a matter of choosing your strongest team on a tough tour. Your attitude seems to be one which simply accepts the likelihood that KP will be available but not playing (because of a previous promise to a player with little experience and lesser ability). Surely this would be a farcical situation.

  • Again, what is the source for the suggestion that KP won’t play because there are too many people on tour? I can’t find any hint of this anywhere else.

    “You don’t want to pay to carry around a spare part player (the ECB couldn’t afford to pay 3 grand for Monty to get some warm up cricket in Sri Lanka before the last India tour), and it’s not fair on the player either (he could be getting regular cricket with the performance squad or elsewhere).”

    It’s perfectly common to take a number of spare players, particularly for tours of India which have attrition rates. A lot of teams tour with three spare batsmen (and with two debutantes, how they handle it is a complete unknown). Furthermore, it’s often been said certain players are taken on tour ‘for the experience’ and there’s never much intention of them playing. If you asked the players themselves whether they’d like to tour with England or go with the performance squad, you won’t find many volunteers for the latter.

    “On the second point, what’s wrong with naming a player on standby, and saying they’ll travel if Pietersen doesn’t? It happens with injured players.”

    KP was effectively sacked. How could they possibly name a squad based on the possibility of him playing, and actually announce one of the players was on standby? What kind of position would that put the ECB in? ‘We sacked you but we don’t really mean it, please be nice to us and come back?’.

    “Your attitude seems to be one which simply accepts the likelihood that KP will be available but not playing (because of a previous promise to a player with little experience and lesser ability). Surely this would be a farcical situation.”

    That’s a problem which only seems to exist in this blog. Again, what’s the basis for saying he’s not going to play so as not to break a (non-existent) promise to another player? My attitude, rather than how you characterized it, is that this is a fuss about nothing, that having this many players on tour is nothing new or even out of the ordinary, and it just seems to be a stick to beat the ECB with.

    • There isn’t a souce Tristan, it’s common sense. England won’t carry around three spare batsmen on tour – and if they do, it will be farcical. Your point about carrying around extra batsmen on an India tour is a throwback to the 80s. People fly in and out of tours now at a seconds notice. The last time an England batsman got injured on a tour to India, they flew Alastair Cook from the Lions squad in the Windies promto and he made a century on debut 24 hours later. When we played Pakistan in UAE last winter (a 3 test tour) we took just 15 players. Given than KP might (even if it’s a might) be coming back (which is, after all, what the captain wanted) we should have done the same – especially as Patel is in the squad (he wasn’t in the UAE). Nobody, I repeat nobody, is going on this tour for experience. Root will play as he’s one of only two openers. There is no point taking Compton for the experience because he’s almost 30 and therefore doesn’t fit into the category you’re suggesting. Ditto Morgan. I’ll leave it there as we aren’t going to agree.

      • As it’s all conjecture then, and not conjecture which is echoed by anyone else who writes on the subject, yes, it’s probably best to just see what happens before we hang anyone…


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